By Alex Early
In this four part series, we have gone from God loving the leader, to God loving the church, to how a leader thinks about the Church, to finally some practical ways in which love can be communicated.
Here are two important suggestions on leading lovingly:
One way in which people feel loved is that they know that know that they actually have access to the leadership. This, of course, doesn’t mean that leaders have to give out their phone number to everyone, are obligated to have people over every day of the week, and allow the community to have free reign over the one’s calendar. But what this does mean is that shepherds smell like sheep. Peter told the elders to “Shepherd the flock among you” (1 Pet. 5:2). This pertains to that skill known as time management. It seems simple enough but as leaders know, there are meetings to be had, issues to be dealt with, sermons to write, money to raise, vision to cast, and on and on it goes. It is really easy to let your calendar fill up with working on the church and not actually be working in and among the church. Take a moment and review your calendar to see if in fact you are among the people. This is a most important way of showing that you love them.
In The Reckless Love of God we see “Jesus loving you, and me, and us (the church). This ought to have an absolutely profound impact on how we love one another. We are not simply silos that Jesus pours his love into. We are intended to be conduits through which Jesus pours his love into this world. You and I are to be like sponges. We soak up the love of Jesus and are to be wrung out in the church. Your church can have everything “right” and yet still receive a rebuke from Jesus if love is absent” (P. 173).
Listen to Paul’s loving heart toward the people: “We loved you so much, we desired to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:8). Paul really enjoyed being with the people, and most certainly, the people loved Paul, too. There was way more to their relationship than what passes in many churches today for “community” – the routine, going through the motions of attending worship services, saying some prayers, but not actually bearing each other’s burdens. Paul wanted to do life with the people. Notice too, that he oftentimes lists the names of the people in the New Testament to greet them personally. For example, in Romans 16:1-24, Paul mentions 33 people, by name! Or consider that Paul was able to address folks that weren’t getting along (Phil. 4:1-3) Why? Because he loved the people. He knew the people. He cared for the people.
What about when things go sideways? Consider how you handle disagreements with others. It isn’t surprising the people in the church don’t always see eye to eye. That’s not always a problem either. In fact, it is through tension and discussion that often times great ideas are birthed! But as leaders sometimes we can default to very immature thinking – leading through a title rather than our character. Nothing reveals this kind of insecurity better or more plainly than conflict. You are a leader because you are gifted, intelligent, and people see something in you worth following. So when there are disagreements, don’t forfeit what’’s been entrusted to you by giving in to being rude, harsh, or insensitive. The tone in which you communicate matters as much as the content of what you’re communicating. That is to say that you can be right and still be wrong. You can win an argument but still lose a person. Paul says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).
Jesus takes away the sinner’s guilt, fear, and shame. He takes burdens off, he doesn’t pile them on. Jesus gives the sheep his righteousness, love, grace, and truth. We must spend the time necessary with Jesus, so we act, lead and love like he does.